WITH ALL OUR SENSES: A way to survive and hopefully thrive as a woman in a patriarchal society.

Common sense is defined as normal or good sense in practical matters or the natural intelligence that is believed to be available to all rational people. Simple right?

Wikipedia’s definition is my best by far. It states, common sense, is the ability to perceive, understand and judge things which should be shared by all people without any need for debate. This is a priceless understanding of the word that I think everyone should retain and carry along with them all- the-time and I will tell you why.

a) It will help you choose your battles wisely. There will be no need to waste time, reasoning, emotions and energy on certain people and their views. The moment they open their mouths, you will be able to immediately note that they lack something this basic so no need to dialogue with them. And please don’t think you can convince them.

b) It will also help you know who to ally with in your daily interactions. Trust me, something this basic, and it is necessary to keep calling it that, reveals a lot about people.

Patriarchy on the other hand, for those who do not know, is a social system in which males hold primary power, predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property; in the domain of the family, fathers or father-figures hold authority over women and children. This is also a definition straight from Wikipedia.

This has however not always been the world view. Anthropological evidence shows that the world was not originally patriarchal but in the Hunter-Gatherer prehistoric times, it was more egalitarian, This was the trend of thought that favored equality for all people.

So how did this patriarchy come about?

Some people believe it was when the concept of fatherhood was introduced, others think it was innovations like agriculture that brought it on. This means that when farming became a way to sustain life instead going out with the hopes of gathering whatever you come across; then roles had to be introduced. The men will go out and work to be providers while the women will stay home with the kids and domestic duties.

It is amazing to observe and note that in my village as in most Plateau villages, as the sun is rising, what you mainly see is droves of women heading to the farm. Most of the men incidentally take their time before showing up to “their roles”. I wonder when this exchange took place and why it hasn’t changed the view that the man is still in charge. Anyway this is a side observation, let’s not get distracted.

One of the most important theories of why patriarchy came about for me, is the one that some people believe migration must have caused it. This is because people moved from place to place and took with them their ways and philosophies of life. This could also possibly either mean the prehistoric world was not totally egalitarian or some people moved away, adopted new ways and then for the lack of a better word, infected the rest of us with it. So generally, new thinking and new life philosophies might have been the cause of patriarchy.

Let’s look into that a bit.

This is because every time we talk about equality and some of the ridiculous societal rules imposed on women, we say it is local, village, uneducated, unrefined, archaic thinking that brought these rules on. This has been i believe one of our grave mistakes. I will put it to you that a lot of these thinking came to pass because of two things I have observed,

a) The hierarchies we have placed in society.

b) Our unquestioning acceptance of those within the hierarchies.

Confused? Let me break it down.

When I was in secondary school, in junior class, our social studies teacher taught us how to identify ourselves within the greater scheme of things; one way was by something called Social Stratification. This is defined as the ranking or grading of individuals into layers of importance. This definition, almost 20 years later was pulled with ease from the memory bank of my brain. This is because after hearing that definition, I was genuinely disturbed by my education and so I never forgot it.

The next disturbing thing he taught us was our physical classification; the Johann Friedrich Blumenbach’s way. We belonged to the Negro race because this well educated, well researched and well traveled man said so. This classification is something I have come to understand has no scientific basis or verification whatsoever. Blumenbach believed the Caucasian race was supreme simply because all human skulls are white. So this essentially means that our original form was white. However, environmental degradation and poor nutrition cause the breakdown that made us to become different races. He believed and I underline believed for emphasis, that it was the sun that basically boiled our blood and darkened our skins. No biological, scientific or laboratory proof, no vision or voice from the sky just good old belief. I wonder if in his travels he ever saw a pale light skinned Igbo person.

But not only were his ‘findings’ published, it was taught for a really long time as some kind of truth. Why do you think that is? Let me tell you why. Because we ranked and graded individuals into layers of importance and the ones up there are the educated/educators, the explorers and seekers of knowledge (philosophers), and the rich and well placed. This is the top tier of the hierarchy.

Don’t believe me, let’s look at some else who is well known. Aristotle.

Aristotle

Aristotle

Aristotle, one of the men whom through his thinking and writings shaped western philosophy; had some dangerous input into the view of women. In his works, he portrayed women as morally, physically and intellectually inferior to men and he saw women as property of men. Because of his high rank in his education; he was a student of Plato who was a student of the great Socrates, who do you think believed him without question? I am bold to say 99% of all who heard him, especially since he had contributed so many important things to Physics, Biology, Zoology, Poetry, Logic, Linguistics, Music and rhetoric. I doubt he was doubted. This guy basically sanctioned, even thought it might not have been intentionally, rape, abuse and violence towards women, after all to treat them as equals means to acknowledge them as fellow human beings but if Aristotle says they are inferior then…

Do you still doubt the effect of intelligent thinking and high ranking people in shaping the world?

Let me give another example.

Ancient Egypt is considered as the cradle of civilization; so this wasn’t a backward place as we like to think is the place that contains patriarchal thinking. And we are sort of right because Herodotus, the Greek father of History when he visited ancient Egypt for the first time…’left a record of his shock at the contrast between the roles of Egyptian women and the women of Athens. He observed that Egyptian women attended market and were employed in trade. In ancient Egypt a middle-class woman might sit on a local tribunal, engage in real estate transactions, and inherit or bequeath property. Women also secured loans and witnessed legal documents.’ – the source of this is Wikipedia.

Father of History

Herodotus

But this all changed with the influence of Greece when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. Guess who educated Alexander the Great, yep, Aristotle. This is not undermining the work of Aristotle but some of his philosophies were truly damaging.

And why was he believed again? Think about it. Think about this also, Aristotle also wrote in his book, Metrologica, that Africa was a land rich in resources of gold, ivory and cinnamon but it was also inhabited by dangerous monsters scorched black by the sun. That’s us in case you are wondering. But this is the best part, he had never been to Africa at the time he wrote this.

My point at the end of the day is, if you are thinking some of these things came about because of backward thinking, stop. Intelligent, convincing and highly placed people have brought us to this place and we have to acknowledge that.

What to do next?

As Einstein said, you cannot solve a problem at the same level of thinking that it was created; so essentially we have to step up our intelligence game. How do we do this?

  1. This is my main life philosophy; question everything! I do not waste my time being angry or bitter over what has been, instead I explore why it has been and if it should continue to be. So question it all. As women, one of the most dangerous things we can do is assign the role of victim or helpless participator to ourselves. Culture as far I am concerned is someone’s creation and we don’t have to imbibe all of it especially the crippling and damaging parts.

For our society, Culture seems and mostly presents itself as a beautiful communal open invitation participation lifestyle but really some aspects are a suffocating choke hold. This is why we must I repeat question everything.

For example, some ‘Elders’ told me that women are not allowed to inherit property from their fathers. It was presented as we are not worthy or inadequate or something. Guess what? it didn’t take too many why’s to discover the truth of the law. it was initially created to protect women. Patriarchy was having a foothold and they realized a lot of women were loosing out on things that rightly belonged to them when they got married. These women will take their property to the husbands house and when the men divorced them for some reason or the other, they would keep the original property that belonged to the women.  So a new law was created. The women were meant to keep what belonged to them for safe keeping in their father’s house and if anything went wrong in the marriage, they still had their property to come back to. Now time and the evil in the hearts of men have perverted something that was originally a beautiful idea into oppression. So ask!

2) Along with common sense, use all your other senses in judging things. By this I mean your sight, hearing, smell, taste and feeling.

Wikipedia, my good friend defines Sense as a physiological capacity of organisms that provides data for perception. This is a freaking good definition because it tells me that our perceptions of ourselves and others is/should be based on the data literally given to us by ourselves. So we have to wake up and use this inherent awesome ability to guide our lives moving forward,

For example in my practice of using my senses, I used my eyes to observe three set of twins between the ages of 1-5 yrs. Each set has a male and female twin. I noticed in all three of them, the female twin was the strong, confident and independent of the two. The male twin was clingy, cried easily and was basically glued to his mom’s side. This blew my mind!

I immediately started asking people if they knew of any male and female twins. Without telling them what I had observed, I asked of their dominant character traits. I found three people and they all reported the same characteristics in the twins they know. Bear in mind, now I only know of 6 set of twins, this hasn’t proven anything but I plan on getting this number up to 1000 set of twins ages 1-5, across geographical locations, cultures and religion to observe how they behave. I know that after age 5, they will begin to be educated on what it means to be a man and a woman.

3) a) Love yourself enough to boldly speak your mind, speak against injustice and defend your choices. b) Love other women who are boldly loving themselves, speaking against injustice and defending their choices.

We are so quick to throw other women under the bus because we haven’t developed the thick skin that comes with the understanding that we do not need the approval of all the men in the world. This is mostly because, if we are honest, we want to make ourselves marriageable if we are single. Then the married ones do not want any hindrances in the progress their marital status gives them; a tiny reward by society.

Most women are of the same mind when it comes to equality but 90% will speak loudly and denounce the women who speak up. Because in the larger scheme of things between equality and being married, we will pick being married.

4) Share what you know, what you suspect, what you have observed, share your theories and analysis because this: a) opens up rooms for discussions and b) provides some kind of awareness to people who have never thought about their actions or reaction; both male and female.

5) Most importantly, do not be afraid of the word FACT. we are told some of these rules are as a matter of fact, so we do not doubt them.

Well, as a matter of fact, we had 1 (one) moon up until 2012.  Now thanks to a super computer, simulations and such, we now have 18000 (eighteen thousand) moons orbiting the earth. I wonder what 2030 will bring. This is one example of what happens to facts.

In medical school, students are taught that there is such a thing as the half-life of a fact. I don’t think you need to be a student of science to understand what this means. But basically whatever these future doctors have been thought as fact, ten to twenty years down the road, part of it or the entire thing might be proven false. Just something to think about.

As women, we have to take individual responsibility for our lives but this patriarchal battle is for all of us. Let’s wake up and start engaging the world and be active participants in how it should be shaped.

By the way, if you know of young male and female twins and can help with my study, let me know.

Happy questioning, thinking, analyzing and philosophizing!

Hustlers or Customers?

Everyday, if you are open to it, you will learn something new…

This is my new discovery about living life and I am embracing it along with the complexity that comes with learning new things.

The original post has changed. I was going to write something entirely different but I decided to take a long walk before settling down to write and that changed everything. Somewhere along one of my walking routes is my Balango customer. Balango for those who don’t know is the Hausa word for barbecued meat. There are a lot of open air barbecue spots in Jos and it is a thriving business especially if the maker can get the meat right and juicy.

Before I go any further, I feel like I need to explain what a customer is in the Nigerian context. For some odd reason, when we say customer here, it is both the seller of the commodity and the buyer. What makes both of these parties customers to each other, is the frequency with which one patronizes the other; usually the buyer.  Another factor of consideration in this relationship is how familiar the buyer and seller are with each other. It is not strange to find a seller who knows all the names of his customers kids, the schools they go to, if they have health issues and a host of other personal information. This is because for the past say twenty years, the buyer has been coming to the same shop or stall to purchase whatever they need.

Back to my story. As I walked past my balango customer, I was happy to see his business thriving as usual but just as I walked a few steps further; a new development unfolded before my eyes. I had not walked that way in over ten days and during my absence, a new balango seller had erupted near my customer. And I was immediately pissed. I had half the mind to walk up to the new guy and ask him questions like, “What nonsense is this?”, “With all the free spots from here to Hill Station Juction, did you have to pick this one to start your own business?”, “Are you just an evil man or what is this rubbish?”.

I’m not sure I should tell you the caliber of purely wicked thoughts that were going through my mind over this guy who was, I feel, stealing the food from my customer’s mouth. And as I was trying to find peace within my spirit over this earth shattering development, I noticed the new balango man calling customers to himself and I heard a voice say, “walk away and walk away fast”. Now this is what irked me more, I was walking against traffic and this means, people walking with the flow of traffic on that lane would get to the new guy before they get to my customer. And the fact that the new guy picked that spot was all the proof of his intent as far as I was concerned.

Nevertheless, I kept on walking and thinking and having an imaginary dialogue in my head with the culprit. It was a forty minute walk and by the end of it, I had asked and answered some questions for myself.

One of the questions I had to face was why my customers are my customers. And these were my honest answers.

1) They are familiar and I love how we interact and the camaraderie between us. It helps make the whole market experience pleasant for someone like me; I hate going to the market.

2) I do not have to bargain with them because I feel we have gotten to a point that they like me enough not to cheat me. So I feel a bit safe in their hands.

3) They give me a lot of ‘Jara’ which means extra stuff. This I must confess with my new understanding is no longer something I am comfortable with.

Bottom line, I always get low prices with them, great customer service and a pleasant experience.Customer.

Now a few days ago, I read Proverbs 11:24-25, and it talks about scattering your seeds to sow more and invariably reap more as oppose to sowing in one place. And what do you know, the verse popped into my head during those forty minutes of walking along with some accusations.

First, what do I really know about what transpired between the balango sellers before the new development. It is possible that my customer knows the other guy and even invited him to do business with him. It might be an expansion. It might also be a man doing a neighborly thing to help another brother out. I do not know but I assumed the worst. I may still be right but the truth is till I go back and investigate, I will never know.

Another accusation that also popped up was about the many times, I saw sellers in the market who looked like they have not had any sale. And even though they had the same things as my customer, I walked past them because of my own above mentioned convenience. And no matter how frantic they looked as they tried to get my attention, I ignored them. This is because i saw them as trying to hustle me from my customer and I wasn’t having it, I felt like it was my duty to defend the pockets of my customer.

See I am not going to lie to you, the convenience of having a customer is numerous and bountiful. And we should cherish and keep those relationships. We can however be deliberately about trying to balance things out. I plan to start praying and asking God to direct my steps every time I go to the market. I will always ask his help to locate sellers that really need to have a good sale that day and maybe you can do the same too. Once in a while let’s try to look around and see if there is someone who may just have something to take back home because of our purchase. It can be one of our ways of shopping ethically and spreading seeds of hope. I believe this way we can reap the benefit of reducing poverty as we spread our resources far and wide.

What do you think?